The Technium

Five Unstoppables

An unstoppable is a trend or entity with so much forward momentum, centrality, and success that it seems unstoppable. I don’t mean “too big to fail” I mean too unstoppable to stop.

Yet, eventually every unstoppable slows down, even if they don’t vanish, and they usually don’t. (Unlike the “too big to fails.”) How are unstoppables stopped? I recall how hard it was to imagine how unstoppable Japan would be stopped in the 1990s? Real estate was not mentioned. It is always hard to imagine how any great power declines while it is at its peak. But all will.

I see five “unstoppables” reigning in popular imagination now. 

Google, China, the Singularity, Moore’s Law, and the US.

Recently a few contrarians have taken a stab at how the US might fall apart, as mentioned previously. Here’s a recent not very convincing argument against Moore’s Law continuing much beyond 2014. Vernor Vinge himself fashioned four arguments against his singularity thesis (that is greatness!). There’s a few arguments against China. This one in Foreign Policy has some good points, but I find myself not persuaded for some reason. Excerpts:


For complex reasons, China’s rise has inspired fear and unease, not enthusiasm, among Asians. Only 10 percent of Japanese, 21 percent of South Koreans, and 27 percent of Indonesians surveyed by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said they would be comfortable with China being the future leader of Asia.


Another, perhaps more important, reason for the enduring American preeminence in Asia is that most countries in the region welcome Washington as the guarantor of Asia’s peace. Asian elites from New Delhi to Tokyo continue to count on Uncle Sam to keep a watchful eye on Beijing.


China appears to have done much better in these areas. But appearances can be deceiving. Dictatorships are good at concealing the problems they create while democracy is good at advertising its defects.

I’d love to see a good set of believable scenarios on how Google eventually gets sidelined.


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